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Money Smarts: Estimating and Negotiating — event review
Friday, November 1, 2013 (All day)

They can be among the most difficult aspects of freelance writing, but doing them well is key to running a successful business. I’m talking about estimating and negotiating, those fundamental freelancing skills we must master to get paid what we’re worth. Many of us, even seasoned scribes, can stand to hone our abilities in these areas, which is why PWAC Toronto Chapter made them the focus of its first evening seminar for 2013-14.

Money Smarts: Negotiating and Estimating, which took place on Oct. 29, featured an in-depth look at the knowledge and know-how required to excel at developing quotes, explaining and selling your fees to clients, advocating for better contracts, and ultimately, boosting your bottom line. The panel featured award-winning copywriter, copywriting teacher and author Steve Slaunwhite, the Canadian Media Guild’s Keith Maskell, and yours truly—a higher education communications consultant and copywriter.

My part of the seminar focused mainly on the nuts and bolts of estimating, starting with the core calculation of estimating: multiplying your hourly rate by the number of hours the project will take. Your hourly fee may be influenced by factors such as:
- type of service, e.g. copy writing, communications consulting, copy editing, proofreading
- type of client: private/public/non-profit; small/medium/large organization; new or established organization; client’s sector/market/industry
- how much experience you have
- your expertise: subject matter experts can usually attract higher fees than generalists
- industry standards: check out PWAC’s What to Pay a Writer; the How Much Should I Charge? pay chart, which is based on the results of a recent survey of 23 American writing organizations; and Steve Slaunwhite’s book Pricing Your Writing Services, as well as your writers’ groups on LinkedIn and the forums on PWAC’s writers.ca.

To determine how long a project will take, meanwhile, consider the following factors:
- type of project, e.g. annual report, brochure, blog post
- kind of work involved, e.g. copywriting, researching, interviewing, copy editing
- length, e.g. number of words and pages
- start and end dates
- number of meetings, and whether they will occur in person or by phone/web conference
- number of revisions required
- number of people at organization handling review process
- client’s budget

Included among Keith Maskell’s key points was a scale of four fees writers should have in mind when they are preparing a quote for a project:
1. Overhead rate—the amount of money you need to make to cover your living expenses
2. Going rate—the average fee writers are generally charging for the type of work before you
3. Your desired rate—what you’d like to earn for the project at hand
4. What you will ask for—this will vary depending on factors such as the type of project, type of client, client’s budget, and your financial situation

He said that creating this kind of scale will allow you to prepare your estimate in a more informed and organized fashion, and will provide you with some flexibility when negotiating with clients.

Finally, Slaunwhite’s talk focused on tips and strategies to attract better clients and higher fees, which included:
- Present yourself as a professional— in your attitude, on your website, even in your voicemail message.
- Research companies and industries to get a sense of demand for professionally written marketing materials.
- Deal directly with marketing managers versus agency representatives to cut out the middle man and make more money.
- Provide clients with an initial ballpark fee for a prospective project to get a sense of their budget and to maintain interest.
- Upsell your services by offering clients bundled packages for editorial products related to the project currently under way.

PWAC Toronto Chapter blog editor Sharon Aschaiek writes about education and business for media publications and websites, and provides communication consulting and copywriting services to post-secondary schools and educational organizations.

 

- Sharon Aschaiek

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